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Murder Monday: Murder Most Meta

I'm not sure what to do with Five Red Herrings. Normally when I finish books I don't anticipate wanting to re-read, I take them back to the used bookstore so that the circle of life can continue. But I can't help still liking Sayers despite her crimes against language, detective novel ethics, and my attention span, and my heart rebels at the thought of Five Red Herrings being the only Sayers novel on our shelves. I have other books I could take in to keep it company, but they are the ones I want to keep. TORN BETWEEN LOVE AND HATE: The Murder Monday Story.

My three-novel Marsh volume arrived on Friday and it's pretty great. I'm happy to see that Marsh's love of extravagantly complicated murder theatrics is present from the very beginning. A Man Lay Dead features a beautifully improbable Russian secret society that is somehow both ancient and Bolshevik, and the solution to the murder involves [Spoiler!]figuring out which of the survivor-suspects could have effectively slid down the bannister in their underwear before stabbing a guy. Enter a Murderer takes place in an actual theatre, with a fake gun MYSTERIOUSLY replaced by a real one so that the victim can be shot for real by a (probably) innocent actor during the play. How complicated will it get before the end? Only time will tell. Inspector Alleyn is still polite, and we learn a little bit about what he looks like! and in the early books he acquires a journalist friend named Nigel who follows him around and is enthusiastic about detection.

I also started reading Cards on the Table by Agatha Christie, the first appearance of fictional detective novelist Ariadne Oliver. I love her already. Can you really go wrong with throwing a detective novelist into the middle of your detective novel? Probably, but I haven't seen it happen yet. What I'd like to see is a closed-house mystery in which all the characters are detective novelists, maybe at a convention for Mystery Writers of America. Now that I say it, it seems inevitable that this must exist somewhere, and possibly in several versions. Can anyone point me in the right direction?

Comments

( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
lost_spook
Feb. 9th, 2015 05:33 pm (UTC)
What I'd like to see is a closed-house mystery in which all the characters are detective novelists, maybe at a convention for Mystery Writers of America. Now that I say it, it seems inevitable that this must exist somewhere, and possibly in several versions. Can anyone point me in the right direction?

:lol: That would be fairly priceless, although I do think it should definitely be a golden-era British convention, given your reading matter of late. Of course it couldn't be Agatha Christie; she would be too obvious (unless it was a double-bluff). If any academics got killed, you'd be looking at Sayers, Michael Innes*, or the other one who wrote The Moving Toyshop Edmun Crispin. Josephine Tey will be looking for someone with blue eyes and the right-shaped head to blame and maintaining that it definitely wasn't anything to do with Richard III. Who would actually have done it, though? Hmmm...

I'm glad you've got your hands on some more Ngaio Marsh. She does do some very improbable/gruesome murders, doesn't she? And yet her style is frequently so very under-stated and character-centric, that it never occurred to me until I'd been reading them for some years that when you lined up all her murders, you had the most marvellously gruesome and unlikely set of killings I'd ever come across.


* Have you come across Michael Innes yet? He wrote murder mysteries from the 'golden age' period that vary from super-conventional to that one where a house and a horse get stolen in the middle of WWII and the characters start complaining that the whole thing is so unlikely they could be in a Michael Innes novel. Never mind the fourth wall, darling...

Edited at 2015-02-09 05:39 pm (UTC)
evelyn_b
Feb. 9th, 2015 06:15 pm (UTC)
Josephine Tey is next on my list! depending on how soon I can disentangle myself from the endless Christie and Marsh webs (technically never, but I might be able to take a break). I know she has Ricardian sympathies and wrote a book about it, and nothing else.

I have not come across Michael Innes yet, but

the characters start complaining that the whole thing is so unlikely they could be in a Michael Innes novel

I think I love him already. . .
lost_spook
Feb. 9th, 2015 06:33 pm (UTC)
Ah, I have prejudice against Josephine Tey because she thinks people with my eye colour are automatically lying nymphomaniacs. I wouldn't mind, but she writes so well I start to worry about myself. Daughter of Time is a wonderful book, but slightly more off-putting when you've read her other stuff and realise that she's entirely serious about being about to tell Richard III wasn't a murderer by looking at his portrait. (Yes, Ms Tey, that is how crime solving is done.) So, er, yes. *cough*

Aha, Michael Innes varies (I think he wrote a lot in a short space of time), but he's fun. If you do want to try him, Death at the President's Lodging is probably his best in the traditional style, and the really random one I was talking about is called The Daffodil Affair and I had to keep my copy of it because otherwise I might not be able to prove to myself that I hadn't hallucinated the whole thing.

(The thing about murder mysteries in second hand bookshops in the UK, you see, is look for the Penguin greenback, and you never know what you might find, but it's safe not to be forensic experts in grim urban settings where nobody is a nice person).
evelyn_b
Feb. 9th, 2015 07:31 pm (UTC)
OH DEAR.

Old-skool physiognomy is my nemesis, sort of. I appreciate its influence for encouraging writers to put in lots of really vivid facial descriptions, because I love a good face in my fiction, but at the same time . . . no, you cannot draw actual conclusions based on my mouth shape, what the fuck.

(Which eye color is the lying nymphomaniac one?)

There was a TV special a couple years (?) ago about the bones of Richard III being found beneath some pavement, and the guiding genius of the excavation (according to the special) was a very devoted amateur Ricardian who spent a lot of time (1) being weirdly crushed at the revelation that Richard's scoliosis was real and not 100% Tudor propaganda, and (2) waxing vindicated over the "gentleness" of the features in the facial reconstruction. That was in the 2010s.

Edited at 2015-02-09 07:32 pm (UTC)
lost_spook
Feb. 9th, 2015 08:52 pm (UTC)
I have an issue with it in that case, because I find Tey a persuasive writer and wind up feeling worried by her assumptions about physiognomy. Oddly, it was actually Daughter of Time that set me off, because even though it is good, I felt as if I'd been had after I finished, because she really sells it - but she hasn't solved the mystery, because nobody can unless we find some other significant facts. Also, while I am all for keeping an open mind about history and not assuming Shakespeare wrote facts, the ridiculous stuff that some worryingly devoted Ricardians come up with (not to mention their tendency to wildly blame everyone else in the vicinity, or even not even in the vicinity in the case of Henry VII) is just... 0_o

The eye colour is a particularly shade of dark blue that sounds pretty much like mine. I like my eye colour! (I'm not a lying nymphomaniac btw. Just in case you find Tey as convincing as I do.) It's a shame, because The Franchise Affair is actually really quite an interesting premise and she's such a good writer, but... *shrugs*
evelyn_b
Feb. 9th, 2015 10:43 pm (UTC)
But dark blue is my eye color! THIS EXPLAINS SO MUCH (or does it?) (maybe not). Well, we'll see. I appreciate the warning.

I don't know enough about Ricardians in general to form a judgment, so I am going to refrain from saying any more. I am slightly fascinated by them, though. I should read Daughter of Time for that reason if nothing else.
lost_spook
Feb. 10th, 2015 10:00 am (UTC)
:-)

Oh, yes, Daughter of Time is well worth reading. Just do be careful to pack a little bit of scepticism to take with you. And it's not that I think there's anything wrong with beileving RIII didn't do it, it's just... when people are getting all romantic about it, silliness tends to happen. Rather like fandom. Head!desking ensues. And sometimes YUletide fics based on entertaining blog posts. (You wrote that one with the Tudor spy in, didn't you? That was awesome. ♥)
evelyn_b
Feb. 10th, 2015 05:05 pm (UTC)
Yes! I'm so glad you enjoyed it! I had a lot of fun writing it / frantically trying to absorb as much as I could about Richard et al. at the last minute. That was a very fruitful blog post Yuletide-wise.

Don't worry, my picnic basket of skepticism is full to the brim.

The thing is, facial expression or no facial expression, there's only so much gentleness and woobification you can plausibly impose on a medieval king, it seems to me -- a certain amount of assholery is just built into the job description, regardless of whether this one particular murder was his doing or not. The question of whether Richard III killed his nephews is a separate one from whether he would have ushered in England's golden age if he had been left alone, or lent a sympathetic ear to your problems at the office if you had been lucky enough to meet him. . . but this distinction does not always seem to me to be clearly marked.

I wonder if his very popular fictionalization by Shakespeare encourages people to relate to RIII more like a fictional character to whom the author has been unfair, or if that's just a general risk of doing history, or both.
lost_spook
Feb. 10th, 2015 06:02 pm (UTC)
a certain amount of assholery is just built into the job description, regardless of whether this one particular murder was his doing or not.

Indeed! It goes with the whole shape of the institution, really.

I wonder if his very popular fictionalization by Shakespeare encourages people to relate to RIII more like a fictional character to whom the author has been unfair, or if that's just a general risk of doing history, or both.

Hmm, I think fictional representations - Shakespeare, and Daughter of Time (which is quite intense about it) make more people aware of it, but falling badly for historical figures is what you do all the time if you study history. You mostly try to keep it in check but it sets in quite early and badly. (I remember even in one of my A-Level history classes, one of my the others in my group getting tearful because we were all "being mean to Trotsky"!)
osprey_archer
Feb. 9th, 2015 07:53 pm (UTC)
I had forgotten Nigel! He just sort of drops out of the books later on, I can't remember why. Maybe Marsh got bored of him.

Josephine Tey's Daughter of Time is definitely worth a read; her other books, as lost_spook noted, have weird physiognomy stuff (nymphomaniacs have eyes of a very particular blue!) and also odd gender stuff going on. Possibly still worth a read? I've read most of them, but I didn't feel the need to revisit any of them but Daughter of Time.
evelyn_b
Feb. 9th, 2015 10:58 pm (UTC)
He's sort of the Inspector Fox of this book in terms of the role he plays, even though Inspector Fox is still technically around. Alleyn has him write everything down because he knows shorthand. I guess his naive enthusiasm for Detection!! makes him kind of a reader-insert.

I might pick up Daughter of Time at the library tonight. All of this buildup is making me want to get my lying nympho eyes on it as soon as possible.
osprey_archer
Feb. 9th, 2015 11:09 pm (UTC)
Yay, I hope you enjoy it! I found it engrossing when I read it, although admittedly I knew nothing about Richard III at the time so everything was new and shocking to me.
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )

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